NFL Draft 2011: Power-Ranking the Top 10 Small School Prospects

Mike OsterbergCorrespondent IApril 8, 2011

NFL Draft 2011: Power-Ranking the Top 10 Small School Prospects

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    The 2011 NFL Draft is bound to be one of the most highly anticipated drafts in history.

    With the lockout upon us and labor unrest dominating the NFL headlines, Draft Day 2011 is essentially the last thing football fans have to look forward to. 

    At this point, we've all heard about prospects like Cam Newton of Auburn, A.J. Green of Georgia and Patrick Peterson of LSU and what they can bring to the team that drafts them. 

    For this article, we're going to take a look at some of the best prospects you may never have heard of. 

    Here are the top 10 small school prospects in the 2011 NFL Draft. 

No. 10: Joshua Thomas, CB, Buffalo

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    Joshua Thomas is a 5'10", 191 lb. cornerback from the University of Buffalo. He's a hard-working, instinctive corner that won't blow you away with any skill in particular; he's solid in every facet of his game. 

    He didn't pick up many interceptions at Buffalo, only two in four years, but much of that was due to his reputation.

    Most teams avoided throwing in his direction, but he made his presence felt in the run game as he proved to be an able tackler.

    While he won't be a star at the next level, don't be surprised if a team spends a third or fourth round pick on him.

No. 9: Kenrick Ellis, DT, Hampton

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    Kenrick Ellis is an intriguing prospect. He's been arrested, suspended and failed multiple drug tests, yet teams are drawn to his unique combination of size and speed.

    At 6'4", 346lbs., Ellis has shown the ability to be a disruptive force in the middle of the line. 

    He started his career at South Carolina, but was dismissed in the spring of 2009.

    He moved on to Hampton, where he fulfilled the promise that made him such a highly touted recruit.

    He's a bit raw and, while at Hampton, he basically relied on overpowering his opponent rather than outsmarting them; the good news is all of that can be taught at the next level.

    Look for Ellis to go in the middle rounds of the draft. 

No. 8: Cortez Allen, CB, The Citadel

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    Cortez Allen has great size for a cornerback prospect. At 6'1", 197 lbs., Allen won't be out-jumped or out-muscled by taller receivers at the next level. He's at his best in press coverage, jacking up receivers off the line. 

    Like Ellis, he's a bit of a raw prospect that lacks a true knowledge of his position.

    Unlike Ellis, he has zero questions surrounding his character or his willingness and ability to learn at the NFL level. 

    He's not much of a tackler, and that's a concern for someone who could be latching on as a special teams player in the early part of his career. 

    Someone will draft Allen, most likely no later than the third or fourth round. 

No. 7: William Rackley, OG, Lehigh

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    William Rackley is one of the top offensive guard prospects in the draft. While he played tackle in college, it's more likely that he'll play inside in the NFL. 

    At 6'5", 303lbs., Rackely is huge, with room to add even more bulk.

    He's started ever since he was a freshman and was one of the most respected members of his team, being named an offensive captain in 2010. 

    He's not a phenomenal athlete, but he makes up for it with his high football IQ.

    He's better as a pass protector than a run blocker because his true skills lie in planting himself and absorbing contact.

    Rackley is extremely coachable and has all the tools to be a solid OG at the next level. 

No. 6: Edmond Gates, WR, Abilene Christian

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    In a word, Edmond Gates is a burner. 

    Gates showed off his wheels at the 2011 NFL Combine when he posted a blistering 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, one of the fastest at the wide receiver position. 

    He's a raw route runner, but he has skills in the open field that simply cannot be taught. Gates has great hands as well, and he's not afraid to mix it up in the middle of the field. 

    With the right coaching, Gates will develop into a force at the NFL level. He's almost certain to be drafted in the early rounds of the draft. 

No. 5: Colin Kaepernick, QB, Nevada

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    Colin Kaepernick put up some numbers at Nevada that are simply stunning.

    He's the only player in FBS history to have thrown for 10,000 yards and rushed for 4,000.

    Kaepernick's athleticism is unquestioned; he was even drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB draft. 

    His delivery will probably have to be adjusted at the next level much like Tim Tebow's and he won't be ready start right away.

    However, if a team wants to take a chance on him, they could find themselves with a solid, dual-threat quarterback in a couple of years. 

    He's a hard worker and a tough competitor. If there's anyone that can put in the hard work required to succeed in the NFL, it's Kaepernick. 

No. 4: Ben Ijalana, OT, Villanova

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    Ben Ijalana has been all over the draft boards.

    Some have him as high as a late first rounder, while others regard him as more of a second or third round prospect. 

    In any case, the fact that there is so much hype and conversation surrounding a player from Villanova means there's something substantial here. 

    Ijalana started every game of his career at left tackle and was one of the most durable of all prospects until a sports hernia he suffered in late December required surgery that forced him to miss the NFL combine. 

    At 6'3", 317lbs., Ijalana has nearly prototypical size for a left tackle prospect.

    He's a great pass protector and an adequate run blocker, but he's extremely coachable and a hard worker. 

No. 3: Jerrel Jernigan, WR, Troy

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    Jerrel Jernigan is one of the top WR prospects in the draft, and with good reason. Jernigan ran a 4.46 at the combine and he's shown the ability to line up all over the field.

    He spent time at running back and wildcat quarterback this year, all in an effort to get the ball in his hands. 

    He may not have the speed of a guy like Edmond Gates and he's only 5'9", but Jernigan is electric in the open field and he's a phenomenal pass catcher.

    He's small, so don't look for him to be much of a blocker and physical corners will have their way with him, but he's used to being one of the more diminutive players on the field, so he knows how to take a hit and hang onto the ball. 

    Jerrel has all the necessary tools to be a top flight slot receiver in the NFL. 

No. 2: Dontay Moch, LB, Nevada

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    Joining Colin Kaepernick on this list is fellow Nevada Wolfpack player Dontay Moch. 

    Moch was the fastest outside linebacker at the combine, posting a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. That speed helped him put up some astounding numbers in college. 

    He amassed 21.5 sacks and 37.5 tackles for loss as he proved himself to be one of the best pass rushing outside linebackers in all of college football.

    He leaves much to be desired in coverage, but then again he's rarely been asked to leave the box and run with tight ends. 

    Regardless of his coverage skills, it's his pass rushing skills that have gotten him noticed by NFL scouts; while he could creep into the first round, it's more likely that he will be an early second round pick. 

No. 1: Muhammad Wilkerson, DL, Temple

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    For our No. 1 small school prospect, we have Muhammad Wilkerson from Temple. 

    Wilkerson is the only first round lock of this list, and that can be attributed largely to his versatility. He could player either inside at defensive tackle or on the edge as a defensive end at the NFL level. 

    Furthermore, his versatility extends into his pass rushing game where he has the ability to bull rush blockers as well as run around them. 

    He's got great size at 6'4", 315lbs., and could even add more bulk to his frame if he's charged with playing defensive tackle. 

    Wilkerson absolutely dominated all opponents at Temple and he's a relentless pass rusher.

    Whoever drafts Wilkerson will be getting a player who has all the tools to dominate at the next level. Look for him to go in the top half of the first round. 

    Mike Osterberg is a student at Penn State University and Featured Columnist for the New York Giants. Follow him on twitter @Mike_Osterberg.